If you want to build a presence on social media and generate interest in your brand, you need some good photographs that tell a story, and show your products in a context.
Nowadays you can create beautiful images even with a phone camera, and if you follow these tips you’ll soon be able to take better photos of your products.
1 Take photos in natural light
Unless you are using professional lights, stay clear of artificial light. Instead, take your photographs very close to a window which receives indirect light – a nice, soft light that doesn’t create harsh shadows.
If there’s too much light, hang some white fabric or even a white shower curtain to the window.
To minimise shadows, place a reflector (a white board will do) opposite the window to bounce off the light.
Remember that natural light changes with the time of day, so take a few sample photos at different times – from early morning to late afternoon – to figure out the best time to take pictures.
Keep in mind that the light will change with the seasons too, and with the weather. In winter especially there’s much less available light, so I usually wait for a nice sunny day and then take as many photos as possible with the best available light.
2 Be consistent and give thought to your visual story.
Make sure that your photographic style is aligned with your branding, and aim to create a cohesive gallery of images that all reflect your values and brand ethos.
It’s important to think of what you want to say with your pictures, and what mood and emotion you want to evoke. A consistent style will help you reinforce your brand message and avoid confusing people.
All the elements that you introduce in your photograph contribute to evoke a mood and send a message, so you want to make sure that it’s the right one. This means taking care to select the right props and backgrounds.
In terms of backgrounds, you can use wooden boards, painted boards, fabric, card, or buy vinyl photography backdrops that look like marble, stone, and so on.
Consider the mood you want to evoke, and choose the backdrop accordingly.
For example, weathered wooden boards with lots of texture give a cosy, rustic, earthy feel, while marble backdrops are more elegant and modern.
White and pale backdrops work well for simple, fresh images, while dark backdrops are perfect for creating dramatic photographs.
Consider also natural backdrops such as sand, pebbles, grass, fallen leaves, petals, and so on.
Try to limit the number of backdrops you use, to help people easily identify your brand.
3 Keep it simple
You don’t need lots of props to create a beautiful image.
Having too much choice can be confusing, so it’s best to start with just a few objects to complement your products, and add more only if you feel something is missing.
To get you started, think of the inspiration behind your products: for example, flowers, leaves and plants work really well as props for botanical designs.
Consider using some of the tools you use to create your products, to tell a little story of your creative process.
Some tools are not exactly photogenic, so you might want to invest in a few beautiful versions of the tools you use, to feature in your photographs – like beautiful ink pots and calligraphy pen, pretty scissors and pencils, paintbrushes, and so on.
Consider also including your hands in the pictures, and taking a few photos that show the work in progress – drawing, painting, sketching, packing orders, and so on – to make the images more personal,
4 Compose your image
Before you take a picture, take some time to think of the composition.
Leave some breathing space around your subject to make it stand out, and instead of placing it right in the middle, try to position it along one third of the frame, either to the left or the right (rule of thirds).
If you are using your phone camera, switch on the grid to help you frame the subject in an interesting way.
If you are creating a flat lay, make sure that you are shooting exactly from above, and that all the lines are straight – this is especially important if you are using a backdrop made with wooden boards, or photographing square and rectangular objects.
For a pleasant effect, try grouping objects together, and overlapping some of them. Place your products and props in such a way as to direct the eye from one point of the image to the other, to create a flow and keep the viewer interested.
Don’t be afraid to move things around, and to try different views and angles. Take lots of photos with different placements and crops, and keep making small changes to the composition until you’re happy with it.
5 Don’t forget to edit
Finally, don’t forget to edit your pictures to give them a cohesive look. If you are using a phone camera, try apps like Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop Express, Snapseed, Vsco.
If you have a DSLR, Lightroom and Photoshop are your best options.
The aim is to take a picture that’s as good as possible, and then apply subtle adjustments in the exposure, contrast, colour saturation, sharpening, and if needed White Balance (for colour casts). Practice making small adjustments, like for example increasing exposure, highlight, and whites to make the image brighter, or decreasing exposure and darkening shadows to make it moodier.
Cristina Colli is an artist, photographer, and teacher in love with creativity and flowers. She’s an introvert and HSP, and when she’s not creating, you can usually find her curled up on the sofa reading a good book, drinking tea, or walking in the woods. She lives in Oxfordshire, UK with her husband and two cats.
On her blog, Cristina shares photography & styling tips, and general musings on creativity. She writes a monthly newsletter, Creative Notes, and teaches visual storytelling online.
She also launched a free 5-day e-course to help you find your photographic voice, more info on her website.
Creative Notes: http://www.cristinacolli.com/creative-notes/
Visual storytelling e-courses: http://www.cristinacolli.com/e-courses/
Free e-course: http://www.cristinacolli.com/free-e-course-find-your-voice/